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The Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University

Arizona State UniversityUnited States

Topic(s): Organizational Design
Department:
The Biodesign Institute
Funding Source:
University, Private, Government
Partners:
Government, Higher Ed - Public, NGO, Private, Individual, Research Institute
Type of Institution:
Public
Enrollment:
67,082 (2009)
Highest Degree Offered:
Doctorate
Project Contact Information:
No contact information supplied


United States
Abstract

The Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University (ASU) is one of several interdisciplinary centers created through a dramatic reorganization of academic and research units under ASU President Michael Crow’s New American University initiative. The Biodesign Institute has merged formerly distinct academic programs and fields of research to accelerate the pace of discovery and produce innovative solutions to modern medical and environmental challenges. Since it was founded in 2004, it has demonstrated an extraordinary capacity for generating grant funding and contributing to significant scientific findings. The Institute’s success in these areas is most commonly attributed to its successful fusion of intellectual disciplines and the resulting collaboration of researchers with different areas of expertise. Research projects underway at the Biodesign Institute in 2009 include development of bacteria-based biofuels, vaccines for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and various forms of cancer, and environmentally sustainable methods for producing clean drinking water.

While the Institute is a working research institute without formal classrooms, it serves an important function in the education of many ASU students by engaging more student researchers than any other ASU entity. In cooperation with other ASU departments, the institute also helps students become excited about science and develop the skills needed for science careers.

Project Description

The Biodesign Institute is one of several interdisciplinary research and teaching centers established at Arizona State University (ASU) to generate innovative solutions to modern challenges by fusing intellectual disciplines. The Institute is a product of ASU President Michael Crow’s New American University initiatives, which included a massive reorganization of the institution that merged formerly distinct academic programs and fields of research. Founded in 2004 and located on ASU’s Tempe campus, the Biodesign Institute applies use-inspired research to solve complex health and science-related problems. Projects initiated by the Biodesign Institute include research and development of bacteria-based biofuels, potential vaccines for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and various forms of cancer, and environmentally sustainable methods for producing clean drinking water. The Institute approaches these tasks by identifying large-scale problems and then assembling interdisciplinary teams including bio-scientists, engineers, economists, and computing experts to address multiple aspects of the challenge in a manner that brings different methodologies and perspectives together to generate innovative solutions.

To accelerate the pace of discovery, the Institute fosters collaboration across several distinct disciplines including but not limited to biology, chemistry, physics, medicine, agriculture, environmental science, electronics, materials science, engineering and computing. This collaboration promotes the development of solutions that address many facets of the larger problem and permits researchers to benefit from the application of different problem-solving methodologies. The Institute has initiated hundreds of projects focused on preventing and curing disease, overcoming the pain and limitations of injury, renewing and sustaining the environment, and securing a safer world.

ASU’s efforts to approach scientific and medical challenges within this innovative framework coincided with a statewide initiative to create a robust bioscience economy in the State of Arizona. Efforts to move forward with the development of this new industry in the state began in 2002 and have been guided by a ten-year roadmap that outlined a desire for greater availability of new medical treatments, opportunity to build a technology-driven employment base, and greater stability for Arizona’s economy. Public support for the state’s bioscience initiatives resulted in increased investment in new facilities for ASU’s Biodesign Institute. A voter-approved sales tax referendum in 2000 generated nearly $72 million in funding for the Institute in its first eight years of operation. The state legislature also contributed approximately $78.5 million for the Institute’s Building B, which included additional teaching laboratories for use by faculty, researchers, and students

While the Institute is a working research institute without formal, traditional classrooms, it fulfills an important function in the education of many ASU students and prepares students to embrace innovative practices in the biosciences. The Institute engages more student researchers than any other ASU entity. As of June 2009, there were more than 230 students working in various capacities at the institute, including nearly 100 undergraduates, more than 90 graduate students, and more than 40 post-doctoral students. The institute has helped to expose students at ASU to innovative and exciting practices in the sciences and to develop the skills needed for science careers. The Institute also supports the use of new approaches in bioscience education such as a graduate training program that rotates students through several disciplines. This process prepares individuals to excel in the interdisciplinary science of the future.

Project Results

The Biodesign Institute’s interdisciplinary approach has brought increased success in securing large grants, which have enabled researchers and students at Arizona State University to address significant challenges in the biosciences and other areas. As of 2009, the Institute was responsible for 24 percent of grants awarded to ASU and received the majority of multi-million dollar grants being generated at the university. In its first five years, the Biodesign Institute’s success in competing for federal funding from agencies such as the National Institutes of Health outpaced the national average. Its funding in 2009 comprises approximately a quarter of ASU’s annual research awards, which total more than $240 million across the entire institution.

The Biodesign Institute contributed to more than 460 new scientific findings documented in peer-reviewed journals between 2004 and 2009. Research conducted at the Institute continues to support development of sustainable sources of energy, vaccines and cures for various diseases, and protection from natural and man-made toxins and pathogens.

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